Memories of Borden Grammar School 1943 to 1948

Continuing the series of articles produced by Norman Wigg (see Recollections of the Battle of Britain below), here he recalls his days at the school.

For the next five years, I caught the No26 bus from Teynham, to Sittingbourne, getting off at the post office, then walking up through the alleyway past the Bull Inn, to arrive at the Grammar School. In the evening, I caught the bus outside Burton's to return to Teynham. As my father was a bus driver, I got a cheap season ticket, but that was about all the financial help my parents did get. I cost them a lot of money, in the next few years, but they never complained.

The first year was largely PT and games, which suited me fine. I made a few friends, Nigel Baker in particular, but also Peter Bennett, Roy (?) Pemburton, and a rather odd boy whose surname was "Gunter" or something like that.

I think it was after the second year, that the original 60 boys taken in were "streamed" into A and B classes of 30 each. Not surprisingly, I dropped from being in the "top third" in the class, to about the bottom third. My father was disappointed with my results, and, although I tried to explain to him that I was now competing with the best 30 boys from the original 60, I don't think he ever really understood!

Generally, I got on well with the staff. Like all the others, I had a crush on Miss Moore, the Latin teacher, but didn't repay her efforts to teach me Latin. I particularly liked Mr Ashby, Mr Goff, the art teacher, and Mr Beer, the English Teacher. Also, of course, Mr Horlock, the gym master - a very likeable and eccentric character! He didn't like Norman, and insisted on calling me "Eric" - my second name. Actually, I myself prefer it to Norman. Didn't much like Mr Comber (Maths) and definitely disliked Mr Davies. who taught chemistry.

At Borden, in the winter term, we played football, which I definitely disliked. It always seemed to be wet and cold, and the old type leather ball quickly became sodden, heavy, and impossible to kick any distance. Same to some extent with hockey, in the spring term. However, on a few occasions we played when conditions were dry and reasonably warm - then it became a different game. I later played for a local hockey team.

Come summer term and CRICKET. At last THE game I have loved from a very early age. Indeed, had dreams of becoming a professional cricketer, but could never have been good enough for that. Did have a trial game for "Kent Young Amateurs", the day run by Leslie Ames, the great Kent wicketkeeper / batsman. Didn't do myself justice that day, either with bat or ball. The selected eleven played two or three matches that summer, and I was chosen as "12th man". Regretfully, my services were not required, and any dreams I may have had evaporated!

However, I did play a lot of cricket, for various local teams, and even for one I had organised myself, to play in a local evening league. I did play for Bapchild, Gore Court, and Rodmersham, before settling for Milstead. There I became a solid opening batsman, was usually good enough for 20 or 30, and over some years made a few 50's, and one score into the 80's, but matches were never long enough for me to accumulate a century! I thought I could bowl good medium pace "leg cutters", plus the occasional off break, but was rarely able to persuade the captain to let me "have a go". Have many very happy memories of those days, and some strange ones. Playing in a snowstorm in June, laying flat on the field while a huge swarm of bees, (all about 3 feet from the ground and upwards) passed over us.

Later in my life played for a team at Cambridge, and also at the GLC, and for my (then) employers team at Woking. (Ideal Homes). Am these days an "occasional player" at East Molesey, Cricket Club, probably the oldest in England. First match there recorded in 1756, when an 11 of Surrey, lost to a "London 11".

From time to time various "crazes" swept the school. I particularly remember the one for home made parachutes. These were carefully folded, then flung as high as possible, where they (usually) opened and drifted in the wind. I can't remember if it was my idea, but I made a catapult, using model aeroplane elastic, which meant my chutes went higher than most before opening. On one side of the field was a spiked iron fence dividing the school from the park. It was expressly forbidden to climb over it! One lad, whose chute had drifted in the wind, and gone over, climbed over to retrieve it. Unfortunately for him, George happened to see him coming back, and ordered him to his study, where I understand he had a painful experience!

The fifth year exams GSC / Matric were on us, so I did get down to serious swotting. except for French, where (my illogical) hatred of Toto and co, made it hard for me to take the subject seriously.

I can't remember if I was aware that I HAD to pass French to achieve Matric standard. Instead I got credits in everything else, plus a distinction in English Lit.. But my failure in French meant that I would not go to the sixth form. This didn't bother me at all at the time, as I was getting a bit fed up with Borden, and looking forward to joining the first year arts course at Medway Art School.

I was pleased to "repay" Mr Beer for his pleasant and easy going teaching, when the School Cert / matric results were announced. I think just about everybody in the class had passed, but Mr Beer announced this, and added, in perhaps a slightly surprised tone, "and Wigg got a distinction". My only one! All the others were "credits" except for French - a failure! Trouble is, I always hated that idiotic "Toto", and his family, who appeared in our textbook "En Route".

It is quite likely that, since I had a very good "short term" memory, that, if I had wished, I could have given some of the time I spent revising for other (non matric) subjects, to learning French words and verbs, that I probably would have got, at least, a pass. How very different my life might have been then!

Art was my best subject, which I most enjoyed, and I thought that our Art teacher's life was a very pleasant one. Long holidays, learning about and teaching art, hardly any homework to mark - that seemed a very desirable life style to me. Indeed, when I expressed my ambition to Mr Goff, he was encouraging.

College years to follow …..

Norman Wigg